The Confrontation of the Gospel

The Confrontation of the Gospel

Sep 10, 2017

Passage: 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Preacher: Jason Wolin

Series: 1 Corinthians

Category: Christian Living

Keywords: 1 corinthians, gospel

Detail:

 

Introduction

Today we are going to be in Psalm 115 so if you have a Bible open it up there and today will be our last Psalm in our series on the Psalms before we start next week into 1 Corinthians. I feel like I always say this when we finish a book of the Bible but I really loved this series. I have been amazed at the insights we get into our human condition, our design and what makes us flourish. And today's Psalm will not disappoint in this regard.

This Psalm in particular is one of my absolute favorite and I've saved it for the end. And the reason it's one of my favorites is I think it has one of the most incredible insights into the construction of the human heart.

Here's how the Psalmist gets to that insight, he asks a question: He's going to point out the power of trust to shape you as a person. If asked the question, "What shapes you as a person?"

  • You might say, trials shape me.
  • My teachers have shaped me.
  • My friends shape me.

But you probably wouldn't include trust in that list. Well as we are going to see today, the Psalmist wants us to put this at the very top of our list! What we choose to trust in shapes us more than any other influence.

So let's dive right in and see how this unfolds in the text itself.

Now the Psalmist begins by expressing his desire to deflect the glory away from himself and toward God. And the assumption here might be that there is this stream of glory coming his way and he's wanting to deflect it away from himself and toward the person who truly deserves it.

And just for the record, this is not normal. Right? When good things happen, and men begin to praise us, our impulse is to absorb that praise. Our impulse is to become giant black holes that just suck in all the glory we can. We just crave the praises of men don't we? And if you don't agree with that statement you don't know your own heart very well. This is universal without exception. Everyone wants glory. We are glory monsters.

When someone comes up to you and says,

  • Man, you are such a great boss. It's no secret why you are successful. You work hard, you have natural talent. Of course people want to work for you! People trust you and your abilities. As they should. You’re amazing.
  • You are such an unbelievable artist.
  • I wish I could be as good of an athlete as you. Seriously, you are unbelievably talented.
  • You are so smart. I'm not sure I know anyone as smart as you.
  • You've got such nice lips, eyes, hair
  • You look extra manly today. I like it.
  • You are the funniest person I know.

What happens to your heart when someone says something like this to you? I know if I even get a whiff of this, my heart warps and darkens into black hole and those words get sucked in passed the event horizon never to be seen again. There is this sucking sound in your heart, that just wants to pull in all the glory for yourself.

But we are going to see something in this passage. If you allow this to happen, it will kill you. This is not what you were designed for. We were designed to do what this Psalmist is doing. "Not to us, not to us, but to your name be the glory."

God is the one DESERVING of the glory. This is the issue. I recently watched the Lance Armstrong documentary about his lifelong career of doping while racing. Here was a guy who was sucking in the glory. He was winning tour de France titles. He was anhilating the field. And when it all got exposed and it all came out, the final verdict was that they came and stripped him of all his titles, they stripped him of all his glory. Why? Because he didn't deserve them.

And that's the exact same idea. We don't deserve the glory. We don't deserve any titles or trophies. What did we do? Nothing. God is the one deserving of the glory.

When you read the Bible, God being glorified is no small theme. This is the theme. The whole goal of history is to get glory properly channeled. There is no greater theme in the Bible. The Bible is about God getting glory for his infinite perfection. I need to take just a second to remind you how massive this theme really is:

  • Ezekiel 20.5-9 says that God destroyed Egypt for so that he would be glorified among the nations
  • Ps 106. That despite Israel's sin and transgression he saved them that he might be glorified
  • Psalm 25.11 for your name sake pardon my guilt
  • Psalm 23 he leads me in paths of righteousness for what reason? For his name sake?
  • Is 48:9-11 God didn't want Israel destroyed when they deserved it because he did not want his glory to be tarnished.
  • Mal 2:2 He decides to destroy Israel because they would not give glory to his name.
  • Ephesians 1:3-6 says, we are saved to the praise of his glory.
  • 1 Corinthians 10.31, whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or play golf or give up golf, whether you drink coffee or give up coffee whether you watch movies or choose to deny yourself of movies you do it all for what? The glory of God.

This is the story of the Bible. Not you. Not me. God. God alone.

  • We glorify God because of his steadfast love not our pathetic love.
  • We glorify God because of his faithfulness, not our disloyalty and treason.
  • God be praised. God be glorified. God be magnified. God be exalted. It's about God.

And so the Psalmist begins with this attitude of deflection. Now you might think if you were to go no further that the Psalmist, speaking for the nation of Israel, was experiencing some sort of amazing success. Israel finds herself in this stream of praise and she's needing to deflect it. But that is not the case at all. In fact, it's the opposite. Israel is suffering. Let's read:

Israel is saying, not to us Oh, Lord, to your name be the glory.

Do you see the situation? Israel is actually in a terrible bind. Israel is in distress. And she's actually saying, "Save us! In fact, don't just save us. Make us great. Make us prosperous. But not for our sake. For your sake. Because if you don't save us and make us prosperous then the other nations are going to look upon us and say, "Where is their God?"

Instead what we want is for the nations to say, "Israel trusts in God and look at how prosperous she is. Israel must have an amazing God. That's the attitude the Psalmist opens with. The prayer is not a selfish prayer. It's like praying, God everyone knows I give you credit for everything in my life, so make me a billionaire so I can give it all away and show how great you are."

So Israel is suffering and they can't help themselves and they are crying out to God for help.

Now suffering is very good for most of us in that it helps us to look outside of ourself. Suffering universally has this effect. You say, "Well, I've done everything I can to help myself and I'm still stuck. Let me see if there is something else out their that will save me?"

And what you decide to turn to and trust and put your faith in and hope in determines everything. And we are going to see that very clearly next.

All Trusting will transform you. That is true. But not all objects of trust will transform you in the same way. Some things you trust in will warp your soul and others will restore it. So what he's going to do next is contrast two divergent paths of trust. Trusting in God and trusting in everything else.

Essentially what he does here is point to this grand experiment that has been going on since the dawn of time. Nobody thinks of their life this way, but we are all born and by being born you are involuntarily entered into this grand experiment that goes something like this: pick something to trust and see what happens. Here's how this plays out in our experience: we are born into this world we are almost immediately accosted by our limitations

  • We run into this problem of death.
  • We run into this problem of wanting our life to have meaning.
  • We run into this problem of suffering and evil.

That's pretty universal. Everybody agrees those are problems. And so the story of the human race has been to try to understand those problems. Look at all the literature that has ever been created. It all tries to address these problems in some way. And humans as a species have trusted in various things outside of themselves to try and fix those problems. And this is where paths will wildly diverge. This is where the experiment starts. In a sense it's every man for himself. Nobody can regulate anyone else.

  • Okay, you think money is going to do it for you? You trust in that and see how that turns out. And everybody just stands back and watches. Okay, let's see what happens to that guy. There's exhibit A.
  • Okay, you think that relationship will do it for you? Okay, you go trust in that to save you. Here's exhibit B. How did that work?

Everyone trusts in something. Everyone puts their faith/hope/trust in something. And the Psalmist for the sake of clarity is going to boil it down to two options. The actual God of the heavens and anything else. And the Psalmist is going to compare them.

Now remember here the issue is trust. What do you want to put your trust in? An impotent idol or an omni-powerful God? Why would you hope and trust in something that cannot save you?

That's kind of stupid. And we tend to look at this description of ANE idolatry and think, that is so stupid. How could anyone trust in a lifeless object and think it's going to save them? They made the god with their own hands. They actually cut down the tree with their own hands. And then they grind on it for a while and paint it with their special colors to represent something recognizable and then just because they say so, they fill it up with meaning and value and they bow down to it and trust in it and think it's going to save them.

Oh, these dumb cavemen. These poor cavemen who were so stupid. Why could they not see? Well if you think your getting setup you are correct.

Believe me, the human heart has not advanced one bit. I would venture to say that every one of us in this room is tempted to or is currently bowing down to a functional equivalent of that exact same thing. Think about money. How is a dollar bill any different than a carved idol from the ANE. We take a tree. We whittle it down into pulp, shape into the correct shape, paint it with all the right symbols, and just because we say, we fill it up with meaning and value and we bow down to it and trust it thinking it is going to save us. It's lifeless. It's not a person. What do you mean you trust in paper or a number on a screen?

And you say, "Oh that is different. Money can buy things. Money can control people and get them to do what you want?" You don't think ANE idolatry did the exact same thing? Of course the ANE caveman as you call him didn't think the wood was the god. The wood represented and invisible deity with power. You could control people through religion.

No, we are all worshippers of lifeless idols. The Psalmist really points that out. We worship things that have the appearance of a savior but if you deconstruct it you realize, it's nothing more than the work of human hands. When people make an idol they have the sense that they have made something greater than themselves. Right? The hands of an idol represent power. You are looking for hands outside of yourself. We want the idol to do something for us. We want him to rescue us. It looks like the idol can save you. It looks like it has hands.

Money sure is like that. It sure seems like it's powerful. It sure seems like it has hands. It seems like it can save you, but money has no life.

Deconstruct it. Think about what money is. Money is just the concentration of human labor into something tangible. But it's still just human hands. It doesn't rise above human hands.

Some people trust in science and technology. Yes, I have this rare disease, but someday science will rescue me.

You know science will eliminate the world food problem. Pretty soon robots will farm all our crops, eliminate pests and bugs. It's going to be amazing. You just watch. Science will cure suffering.

Yes, I trust science. What do you mean you trust in science? It has no power. It has no brain.

Science is just human hands at work. Science is just the sculpting of nature by human hands. Organizing molecules can't ultimately save you from the ultimate problems you encounter. How will it save you from the great enemy death. How will it provide lasting satisfaction and purpose. It's lifeless. What do you mean you trust in science?

Another way of saying that is that all idols are made and have to be filled with imaginary power by the worshiper. They do not have that power explicitly. They have to be given it. By contrast, God is not made, he exists. Whether you acknowledge him or not, he just is. He simply exists. And he has power whether you like it or not.

If we want to be saved, we need to trust in a being like that! We need to trust in the God who created all matter with a single WORD. How about entrusting your future and define yourself in terms of the being who is in heaven and does whatever he pleases because his infinite perfection moves him to do what is best for his creatures? Which of those options sounds better to you?

It's kind of embarrassingly simple logic. If you blew out your hip and were writhing in pain, what would you rather trust in to get you the hospital? An ambulance or a log that you hand carved into the shape of an ambulance?

You need something with a power plant. As compelling as that is, verse 8 gives us an even more compelling reason why you should avoid idolatry.

This is amazing. This is one of the most significant light bulb verses in the Bible for me that illuminates how the human heart is constructed. What this is saying is that there is a side-effect to worship. When you worship anything, when you trust anything, there is something that happens to you without you even realizing. There is an unconscious softening and reshaping of your heart. Worships puts your heart into a condition where it can be fashioned. But what it is fashioned into is entirely determined by the mold. And the mold of course is the thing you trust and ultimate worship.

Trust shapes us.

If your idol is money, what do you become? Greedy. If your idol is beauty, what do you become? Vain. If your idol is self, what do you become? Selfish.

Do you see how this works?

People who are given over to sensual pleasures are shaped by it. Their life is about the belly or sex or entertainment. Sensual pleasure is the lens through which they view everything. The heart is softened and reshaped in such a way that the only way to find meaning and purpose and fulfillment is to have their sensual appetites fulfilled.

People who trust in money to save them become like money. Their life is about money. That becomes the lens through which they view everything. Sensual pleasures are meaningless. I'll sacrifice any sensual pleasure if it means getting more. It's all about the bottom line. People don't matter. Money matters; it's a game. If it's a choice between people and money, money wins.

People who trust in science or knowledge become like science. It's all about what can be proven objectively. That then becomes the lens. So it's not about sensual pleasure. That can be sacrificed. It's not about money either. They will work for free. It's about information and discovery and facts. But since science can never answer questions like meaning, purpose those questions, even though are the most important questions a human could ever ask, are ignored.

Do you see how the human is warped by this misplaced trust?

  • Because it's not like facts are unimportant, but facts can't save you.
  • It's not like money is unimportant, but money can't rescue you from death.
  • It's not like having our bellies filled is unimportant, but eating food doesn't give you purpose in life.

None of those things can save because they are just dead things. And as a rule of thumb dead things always make crummy saviors. You need something that's actually alive to save you. But look what happens if we trust in the God in heaven who does whatever he pleases!

What pleases God? Give him free reign. Unfettered, unrestrained by social pressures, unrestricted in anyway as a free radical in the universe, what pleasure does God have? What pleases him. Is 53:10-11 tells us,

The entire story of the life of Jesus Christ, the abuse he suffered at the hands of men, the torture of crucifixion and the pouring out of his wrath upon his own Son to rescue sinners is the expression of the pleasure of God. This is what God pleases to do - absorb punishment in our place and rescue sinners.
Now, I'm just saying, when we trust in an actual God like that, an actual God who has power and who is actually, objectively infinitely worthy, we are changed and shaped. Recall with me a verse I know I've pointed out before.

This is an amazing verse. Think of it in light of the principle we just learned. Those who trust in their god become like their god. That is EXACTLY what this verse is saying.

As we trust in God we become like him. He is pure. And we trust in him (here he uses a close synonym hope). As we trust or hope in him, because he is pure we become pure. Isn't that cool.

It's like a baby duck that hatches out of an egg and is 100 percent impressionable. Who should I be like? I need help. I need to trust someone to protect me. And then that little duck looks at the mom and the mom imprints on that baby duckling. And the duck is changed. The duck becomes like the thing it trusts.

That is why it is SO IMPORTANT to trust the right thing. Because you will be like that thing you trust.

When you get sick.

  • You don't trust the doctors. They are men.
  • You don't trust medicine. It's a lifeless chemical.
  • You don't trust money. Money is just liquid men.

You TRUST GOD. When you lose your job.

  • You don't trust your bank account to get you through.

When your kids start rebelling against.

  • You don't trust your parenting techniques. That is the work of human hands.
  • YOu don't trust the great school you send them to. That is the work of human hands.

Now God uses means, but you trust God, not the means. If I'm stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire and don't have a tire iron or jack, I might put my trust in the benevolence of some stranger. That stranger comes and he uses the tire iron in his car and the jack in his car but I don't put my trust in those things. My trust is in the power of the one who wields those things.
And this is how we trust God. We parent as best we can. We work hard. We do what we know we should do, but these things are just tire irons and jacks. We trust in God!

Now because that is true, because our ultimate confidence and only true hope is in God, the Psalmist pleas:

Maybe you are here today with a real problem that is beyond you. He promises, that if you are great or if you are small. No matter the size of your problem or the importance of your position, he is the person you need to turn to for your problems.

What are your problems? What are the things you can't handle? What are the stress points in your life? Trust in Him.

  • Are you a mom lacking purpose? Trust him. Don't hope in a situation change. Don't hope in the upcoming vacation. Don't hope in the home remodel project. Don't hope in some future day where the kids leave the house. These are all the work of human hands. Idols. Trust in God.

Every day you are shaping your soul by the things you trust. Create awareness of this. Every single day you run into a problem. There hundreds of problems in a day. Hundreds. Where do you turn when you need help outside of yourself? What do you hope in? What do you trust in?

The Psalmist is going to close by pronounces a blessing on those who trust in God.

He ends with a final contrast. Trusting in idols produces death. Silence and death